Many of you who frequent this site are probably in your late teens or early twenties. Well, good! I caught you early and what you are about to read may help you look the way you do right now for a lot longer than you thought. Even those of you who are older can still benefit greatly from reading this information, but let me take the young girls aside for a second. We need to have a chat...
Think again. Right now, everything you do will directly affect how you look ten, twenty, even thirty years from now! Now is the best time to learn about your skin and start taking care of it.
Think of your skin like a brand new car. The chances of a brand new car breaking down or having any major mechanical problems are very slim, right? What if you keep forgetting to change the oil?? What if you never do? What if you drive through a hot, rocky desert for 10,000 miles straight without having any routine maintenance done to the vehicle??
You may find that your new car is not working so well anymore; and it is sure as hell not going to be in good condition in five or ten years.
The same thing goes for your skin. Sure, it looks great now; lines and wrinkles don't even cross your mind. But if you smoke, forget to wear sunscreen once in awhile, sleep with your make-up on, and don't use a decent moisturizer, you may find that your skin will take a sure turn for the worse, and a lot sooner than you think!
Learning how to take care of your skin now and putting even a small effort into preventing wrinkles and aging can keep your skin looking young for a very long time. Most dermatologists agree that women should start using retinol-based products for wrinkle prevention as early as their first year of college. If you don't know what retinol is, don't worry, we'll get to that.
My point is this: you may not think you need to worry about aging now, but you do. You are never too young to start taking care of your skin and ten years from now, you are all going to thank me for this! So keep reading!!
...Your mom didn't lie. Smoking, poor diet, excessive drinking, and the sun, besides all being incredibly bad for you, are also hell on your skin.
We all know it causes cancer, makes your breath smell, wreaks havoc on your mouth and lungs, yellows your teeth, etc. Why people even smoke anymore is beyond me, but it is also one of the major contributors to premature aging. Smoking actually speeds up our bodies' aging process by promoting the destruction of skin cells. Smoking can also inhibit and sometimes reverse the effects of certain healthy nutrients. For example, in non-smokers, beta-carotene can improve skin and help reduce the risk of some cancers. However, for smokers, beta-carotene can actually increase your risk of lung cancer! So even if you are cool with cancer and smelly clothes, at least think about your skin. If you can cut down on your smoking (or better yet, quit!), you can keep your skin looking younger a whole lot longer.
This is the one I have the most trouble with, being an avid junk food eater and all. I know you've heard the saying "you are what you eat". Well, it is no lie!
Everything you put into your body gets digested; the nutrients and vitamins are broken down and distributed throughout your entire body, including your skin.
Ok, so it is untrue that eating greasy food gives you pimples (that is just an old wives' tale), but there are things you should avoid if you want your skin to look healthy.
Even if you change your diet, quit smoking, and do everything possible to take care of your skin, you can undo all your hard work with a simple sunburn. By far, there is nothing more harmful to your skin than the sun's UV rays. If you have had 4 or 5 sunburns in your lifetime, you have more than doubled your risk of skin cancer and premature aging.
UVA rays penetrate the skin so deeply they can even go all the way through your body's protective epidermal layer down to the dermis where blood vessels and nerves are found. These rays do terrible things to your skin and can make you look a lot older than you are.
To prevent skin damage caused by the sun, you need to start making sunscreen part of your daily beauty regime. Wear a lotion containing at least 15 SPF every single day, even when it is cloudy or cold out. Walking across a parking lot, eating outside, taking the dog out, and even driving can expose your skin to the sun enough to do damage over time. If you are planning to spend a lot of time in the sun, use a broad spectrum sunscreen (which blocks both UVA and UVB rays) with at least an SPF of 30, and be sure to reapply it every few hours.
I am shocked as to how many of my friends go to sleep without removing their make-up and washing their face. Make-up makes it easier for dirt and oil to cling to your skin. So when you go to bed with it on, you end up having all that dirt and oil that you collected on your face that day rubbed into your pores while you sleep. To make matters worse, a good deal of that make-up and ickiness ends up on your pillowcase and gets revisited by your face the next time you sleep.
This can lead to some very bad skin problems. Another issue with sleeping in your make-up is that you are skipping a very crucial part of your daily skin care regimen. Washing and cleansing your face before you sleep and then applying a good moisturizer is very important to do each day. Your skin is going to reap the benefits of most face creams and treatments the most at night while you sleep. So no matter how tired you are, be sure to take care of your face before you go to bed!
You can't watch TV for ten minutes without seeing a commercial for another anti-aging cream of sorts or flip through a magazine without hitting a plethora of wrinkle prevention ads and articles. It becomes difficult to sort out what is just sales propaganda from what actually works, and so few people do any research to find out the truth (which is exactly what those ads are counting on).
The truth is, products can lie to you and give false information about the ingredients. As a consumer, it is important for you to know the truth. After all, you are putting these creams and lotions on your face!! Don't you think it's time you found out if it is even doing anything for you?
Many skin creams claim that they are chock full of healthy ingredients like vitamins and antioxidants that will improve skin and wrinkles. Some of the most common are Vitamins A, C & E as well as fruit extracts, green tea, seaweed, and seed oils. There is no denying that these things are all very good for your skin. However, rubbing fruit extracts on your face for better skin is about as useful as smearing a cheeseburger on your arm for dietary sustenance. This is because your skin can only absorb small amounts of vitamins and minerals and by far, you are better off ingesting these ingredients rather then slathering them all over your skin. A healthy diet is one of the best ways to avoid aging. Having them in your moisturizer doesn't hurt, but having them in your diet will benefit you more in the long run.
So in the end, what most of these face creams actually are is just...well...very expensive moisturizers. However, there are a few ingredients that will bump up the price of skin cream and actually have some merit behind it. The best known of these ingredients is called *Retinol*. Retinol is a derivative of Vitamin A and can also be known as retinoids, Retin-A, and Renova, among others. It is one of the ONLY ingredients backed by science and proven to actually reverse the signs of aging. Yes, you heard me...reverse. Not only is retinol great for preventative measures, but it can boost collagen production, prevent skin cells from breaking down, and even repair cell damage.
There are a few drawbacks to retinol though. For one, it is expensive. Products that contain a decent amount of it can be quite pricey compared to normal skin creams. There are a few brands that use the ingredient and are not too badly priced though. One of those brands is Neutrogena; the Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle cream is moderately priced and contains a fair amount of retinol. Be careful about brands that try to trick you. There are a few ingredients that some skin care companies will use to fake you out by using ingredients with similar names. Be wary of the ingredient retinyl palmitate for instance, many companies use it as a cheaper, less harsh version of retinol but it is known to have some pretty bad side effects...including causing cancer in lab animals.
The other issue with retinoids is that they can be harsh on your skin. It is not uncommon to have redness or dryness from using retinoids. Do not worry, most of the time this is temporary and your skin gradually becomes used to it. Use very small doses at first until you start to build up a tolerance for it. If you have a bad reaction to it or simply can not use it, try Matrixyl. It is a newer ingredient that is said to be similar to retinol and is touted as being great for sensitive skin.
...is not very difficult. All one really needs to prevent "crow's feet" are a pair of sunglasses and some self-control. The skin around your eyes is quite thin and fragile making it one of the first areas that show true signs of aging. Squinting and rubbing your eyes are some of the worst things you can do to that delicate area. Always be sure to wear sunglasses when it is bright outside so that you do not have to squint. Also, take care when applying make-up, moisturizers, or removing your make-up; rubbing and pulling on the skin around your eyes can cause lines and wrinkles to form more quickly over time. If you have a bad habit of rubbing your eyes a lot throughout the day, try wearing eye make-up. It will keep you from wanting to touch the area around your eyes so much for fear you will mess up your make-up.
Many times people only care properly for their face and overlook the fact that the skin on your hands and neck age almost as noticeably. Be sure to care for those areas of the body as you would care for your face. Apply sunscreen and moisturizer in the morning to your hands and neck to prevent premature aging. Your poor hands are exposed to a lot of sunlight throughout the day, particularly while driving. It is really important that you apply sunscreen to them if you want to prevent age spots and discoloration.
Pores are actually sebaceous glands...in other words, sweat glands. These glands are very important to our skin as they secrete an oily substance called sebum. Sebum protects our skin and keeps it from becoming dry, brittle, and cracked. But sebum can be as much of an enemy to our skin as it is a friend. When your pores secrete too much sebum, they can make your face oily or even clog up, creating acne. Some acne medications work by decreasing the amount of sebum your pores produce.
So now that you know a bit of the science behind your pores, you may be wondering...
There are several factors that determine how large or small your pores are. The main one is genetics. Much like your skin color, hair texture, and eye color; pore size is hereditary. If dear old mom and dad have large pores, chances are, you will too.
Another important factor in pore size is your oil production. The more sebum (oil) your pores produce, the larger they appear. Those of you with dry skin my have hardly ever noticed your pores before reading this essay, unlike those of you who have oily skin; who may sometimes feel as though others could spot your pores from across the room. The reason that people with oily skin tend to have larger pores is because the excess oils the pores secrete can harden and get clogged. The pores stretch to try to accommodate the hardened oil and lose their natural elasticity. So even when the oil is removed, they don't shrink back down to the size they should be.
Other factors that may also contribute to large pores are hormonal changes, age, and gender.
Sorry to say, you can't.
There is no way to actually shrink your pores...no matter what the beauty products claim! However, you can make them look smaller and less noticeable.
By keeping your pores free of dirt, excess oil, and bacteria you will greatly reduce their appearance. Sometimes dead skin collects in a ring around the edges of your pores; this makes them a lot more noticeable but is easily remedied with a mild facial scrub.
Rid your pores of excess oil by using a low-strength topical medication or face wash containing retinol or vitamin C. These kinds of antioxidants will help increase collagen production (bringing back some of the skin's natural elasticity) while simultaneously loosening dirt and oil from the pores.
Use a mild facial scrub or exfoliator to rid your skin of the dead skin cells that may have collected around the edges of your pores.
People with either oily or dry skin can also use toners or astringents to temporarily remove excess surface oils, making the skin look tighter and firmer. Some toners have a high level of alcohol in their ingredients and can really dry out your skin. Look for the more mild products instead or just use chamomile tea (a great natural toner!). Aspirin also makes a wonderful toner. Just fill up an 8oz spray bottle with water and add four crushed aspirin. Shake well and ta da! Instant toner.
If you have oily skin, you can use a toner almost everyday. If your skin is generally dry, try to use it only twice a week at the most.
The most delicate way to clear out excess oils and rid your pores of dirt is by steaming. Steam facials are easy to do, very relaxing, and leave your skin feeling smooth and squeaky clean! Simply bring a small saucepan of water to a boil and add some herbs or oils that are good for your skin type.
chamomile, fennel seeds, or rose petals
rosemary, lavender, or peppermint
Although careful exfoliation is important for maintaining a smooth, healthy complexion; you must take care when using scrubs on your face.
I have recently done some research on facial scrubs and pore size and have discovered that facial scrubs may be doing more harm than good when it comes to the size and condition of one's pores. Do I know this for a fact? No. But the logic of it does seem to make sense.
What I have read is that large, rough granules in some scrubs (mainly the cheaper ones) can tear at and rip the edges of the pores. The resulting effect is larger, uneven pores. If you look at some of the cheap scrubs (like St. Ives Apricot Scrub) under a microscope you will see that the little beads have jagged, pointy edges...instead of a nice, smooth surface. It seems quite possible to me that these pointy beads may indeed be doing a number on delicate pores.
In any case....are you willing to take the risk?
My advice is, throw away that Apricot scrub (or at least keep it away from your face!) and switch to an exfoliator with a smooth consistently and soft texture. It should feel slightly grainy but you should not be able to feel individual particles. Or just play it safe and exfoliate gently by rubbing your face softly with a warm, damp wash cloth.
Okay...so you have large pores and you are feeling kind of down because I had to go and tell you that there is no cure. So I feel I owe it to you to tell you something positive about having large pores:
Although having large pores can be quite bothersome when you are young, they can actually be beneficial as skin begins to age. After all, you already know that people with large pores tend to have oily skin. Excess oil can help to counteract dry skin and wrinkles that can occur as the skin ages. So those of you with large pores can celebrate the fact that your skin will most likely retain its natural moisture well into your later years!
So it's not all bad.
Have you ever walked past the lashes section of the beauty store and stared longingly at the vast array of styles, shapes, and colors; wishing you could find the courage to attempt to glue a pair on?
We have all been there at one time or another. Lashes are one of the best accessories a girl (or boy!) can have. Any look, no matter how fantastic or simple, can be improved with a set of lashes. But too many people are just afraid to give them a try.
Trust me though, it is not as hard as it looks and with a little practice and a bit of "know how", you'll be slapping them on with one hand tied behind your back in no time!
So let's get started, shall we??
They can be purchased almost anywhere; drugstores, cosmetic counters, hair and beauty supply stores, etc. The best prices by far seem to be at the beauty supply stores so if you live near one, take advantage of it.
Lashes can cost anywhere from $2 a pack to $20 or more! Trust me, there isn't that much of a difference between brands and I find it a bit pointless to spend more then $6 or so for a pair. The only thing you want to watch for are the really really cheap brands. Some of them are okay and some of them are a complete waste of time. Many of the really cheap brands are made out of plastic instead of real hair. You'll find the plastic kind is most apparent around Halloween. I don't recommend them as they don't blend in well with your natural lashes and look horribly cheap even when applied correctly.
Even if the pack says the lashes are made from real hair, it is still no indication of whether they will be good or not. If you are unsure, just buy one pack until you give them a proper test run. I have run across brands that the assembly is so cheap that the lashes come right off the strip when I try to pull them out of the container. If your lashes can be easily pulled off of the strip, best to find another brand.
A good cheap brand is Ardell; they are only about $3.50 a pair and last for several wears.
If you don't have nails or have trouble grasping tiny objects you may need to use a pair of tweezers. Best to have them on hand just in case. Even the expert lash user may need to make some fine adjustments once in awhile.
You'll also need decent lash glue. Some packs have a tiny little tube included with the lashes. You can use it if you want but it won't last for more then a few applications. You will probably have to buy a large tube eventually. The best brand is Duo, hands down. I've tried many others and haven't found anything I like more than Duo. Stick with the white glue, it dries to clear and is much less messy than the black. For some reason, lash newbies always go for the black...but the clear is really better when you are still learning to put on lashes, as you can better see how much glue you have applied to the lashes and how much it has dried. Really only use the black if you are skipping out on liners completely as it helps to fill in empty space down in your lash bed.
You may also need a pair of scissors to cut the lashes to fit your eye. Little embroidery scissors or sharp hair scissors work really well for this.
Finish your make-up first and apply your liner and mascara. Applying liner on the top lid, down into the lash bed first helps to hide the any separation between your real and fake lashes. Same thing with mascara, if your lashes are naturally black you may not need it. But if you have light lashes like me and wear black fake lashes, you need to use mascara to make your real lashes the same color. Otherwise, people might be clued in to your little guise when you have blond on the bottom and black on top!
Peel them out of the container carefully and hang onto the container, you'll need it to store them in. A decent pair will not rip but they can get warped and funky looking if you pull too hard. They can be a pain to get out of the container because most fake lashes have a sticky strip. This is not to attach to your eye, only to keep the lashes nice in their case. The stickiness of the strip is not enough to hold the lashes on your eye for more than a few seconds but it can be used to get an idea of how much they need to be cut down.
Cut down, you say? Yup...unless you have mega lids of doom or want a VERY dramatic drag queen look, you will most likely have to cut the strip down a bit. Place the lashes (without glue!) on your lids and see if they fit comfortably across your eye. You don't want them to go from corner to corner...they should start at the outward corner of your eye and come in just a little longer than halfway. If they are too long, they will want to peel away from the eye and you'll have a much better chance of them coming off before the day's end.
Cut from the short end, you don't want to cut off the longest sections of the lashes. You can then save those cut portions and use them some other time. They are never very long but they work great for daytime looks or just filling in your natural lashes a bit. After awhile, you won't have to measure your lashes to cut them. Once you do it a few times, you'll just know about how much you need to cut off. I wear the same style and brand a lot and I just know to count five lash clusters over and snip.
Give your lashes a bit of a work out and flex them into an arch or wrap them around a tube of lipstick a few times. This gives them a bit more of an arched shape and helps them to fit in closer to the eye. I must admit, I don't always do this but it helps when you are still learning to apply them.
Now for the glue! Apply a thin line of glue across the base of the lashes. Don't let it glob up but make sure you apply enough that you can see it clearly on the lashes. Here is the most important, key piece of advice to applying lashes that you must know!!!! Do NOT just slap them on right away. Wait for at least thirty seconds or so and let the glue get tacky. It takes a bit of experimentation to learn when the time is right but if you are using the white glue, you want it to get a bit milky in appearance without drying to clear. Applying them wet is where most people run into trouble. Have some patience and wait. Once it is tacky, they are ready to be applied to the eye.
Grasp the lash with your finger tips or tweezers with the glue part facing out. Tilt your head back slightly and keep your eye held half open. If you close it all the way, glue may seep down to your lower lashes and cause them to stick to your upper lashes. Drop the lashes as close to your lash bed as possible and press them down into place.
You may need to use the tweezers to push them as close to the lash line as possible. Mind the ends, as they will want to peel away from the eyes the most! Press them down until the glue dries enough to hold them in place. Ta da! You successfully glued in your lashes!
Give them a minute or so to dry completely. Don't open your eye all the way until you are sure the glue is dried. Otherwise, you will get glue on your lid and it can be a pain to get off without ruining your eye shadow. I usually take this time to apply lip gloss or put my makeup away. Once the glue has dried, apply more liner across the top of your lid. This hides the strip and covers any glue that hasn't dried to clear yet.
I know it seems like an awful lot but don't get discouraged, after you do it a few times it will come much easier. I wear lashes all the time and I can now apply them in less than two minutes, using only one hand! It just takes a bit of practice!
If you are careful about how you remove and store your lashes, you can get multiple wears from them. When you are ready to take them off, gently grasp an end and carefully pull them up and away from the eye. If you waited for the glue to get tacky when putting them on, they should come off rather easily. If they hurt or start to pull out your real lashes, then you most likely applied them while the glue was very wet. If this happens and you can't peel them off, take a Q-Tip and dip it in baby oil. Run it over the base of the lashes and wait a few seconds. Baby oil breaks down the glue and you should be able to pull the fake lashes right off without any trouble. If you don't have baby oil on hand you can use makeup remover or just take a warm, wet washcloth and press it against your eye for a minute or so.
The downside is that once you use makeup remover or baby oil on the lashes, they will get too clumpy and messy to wear again. So if you want to get the most wears out of them, be sure you apply them properly and peel them off carefully. If a large amount of glue has clumped up, you can very carefully peel it off of the lash strip. This only usually happens after about three or four uses and removing the glue will help to expand the life of your lashes so long as you peel the glue away carefully and don't rip lashes out in the process! When you are not using them, put them back in their container for storage. I get about two weeks of wear from some of my lashes. If you take care of them, you should be able to wear them many times before you have to throw them out!
Just like everything else in life...make-up doesn't last forever.
It is a cold, hard fact that we must all accept. Even if it means one day parting with that fabulous hot pink Dior shadow that took you forever to track down before you even hit the bottom of the pot.
First of all, there is the issue of keeping things sanitary.
Cosmetics, especially ones that are wet or moist, can become a haven for bacteria like staphylococcus (pink eye), streptococcus (strep throat), and enteric bacteria (think stomach aches and worse!).
Can these germs affect new products? Well, yes, they can. But they are more likely to develop and breed in an area that has been frequently exposed to air (when you open and close the product), moisture (when oils from your skin get passed to the product), and heat (when you left your cosmetic bag in the car while you ran in to the store). The more often these conditions arise, the happier germs become.
All natural products can have other sanitary issues. Many of them are made from plant-derived substances and have little to no preservatives. So what do you get when you leave plant matter out with nothing to preserve it?? Microbial growth of course! Though you may not actually be able to see "mold" on your products, it could still be there. So those of you who use all natural products, make sure you go through your cosmetics often and throw out anything that may be expired.
The other reason that one might throw out cosmetics is because of the condition of the product. Time can wreck havoc on the ingredients in cosmetics. Liquid liners, crème shadows, and foundations can dry up and become difficult to apply. Shadows can harden resulting in loss of pigment. Lipsticks can dry out and become completely unusable. The creation of cosmetics is a science and when any part of the compound becomes compromised, the whole product fails.
When lipstick goes bad, it usually becomes very difficult to use. It may get sticky, feel dry, or want to break easily. Sometimes it can even develop a strange odor. If any of these signs become apparent, best to just throw it away.
You can extend the life of your lipstick by applying it with a brush instead of directly from the tube. That way the cosmetic never comes in contact with your saliva or skin. Just make sure you get enough lipstick on your brush so you won't have to "double dip".
Powders are dry and, therefore, stay good for a long period of time. If you are careful to apply them with a clean brush and keep your fingers out of them, they can last for years. When a powder product goes bad you may notice a change in color or consistency. It may also harden in some areas or cease to go on smoothly. When this happens, it is time to throw it out.
The moisture in these products shorten their shelf life a bit. They are more prone to harboring bacteria and germs than their dry powder companions. As with any cosmetic, using clean brushes and keeping dirty fingers and tools out of them will lengthen their life.
Most liners become dry, hard, and difficult to use when they have passed their shelf life. Since many liners come in contact with saliva and tears, it is best to keep them clean and sanitized. You can wipe them off with a paper towel dipped in rubbing alcohol or in a pinch, hold the pencil under the flame of a lighter or candle for a few seconds.
Getting on a strict regimen of keeping tabs on your cosmetics and their shelf lives can save you a lot of trouble...and infections! But what is the use of keeping your cosmetics clean if you forget about other products that frequently touch your face? Many other items in your make-up cabinet need to be cleaned and sanitized regularly.
One of the most important factors in buying and wearing cosmetics is determining your skin tone. It is not as simple as pale or dark, you need to figure out what under tone or hue your skin has. Typically, most skin has either a blue or green cast to it. Now I'm not saying that it is so green that Captain Kirk might come a' knockin' but by carefully examining your skin you should be able to see a slight variation of green or blue tones.
After all, this site does deal with "alternative" fashion and beauty; one would think that we would not submit to the normal rules of cosmetics.
That is true...mostly.
I do not think that because you have a warm or cool skin tone that you should only wear certain colors of clothing, eye shadows, or lipsticks. That is just silly! Sometimes going "against the grain" can really accentuate a wild, eccentric look. However, when it comes to foundations and face powders, you will want an exact match. So determining your skin tone will help you to know what foundation colors are best for you. Most high end brands (and even some store bought ones) will have warm or cool tones for all of their shades. The closer your foundation is to your natural skin color, the better it will disappear on your face.
If you are still having a difficult time figuring out your skin tone, consult a close friend or two! They may be able to see the color difference more easily. If that doesn't work, take a trip down to your local make-up counter and ask one of the artists there. They work with different skin tones all day long and may be able to help you figure it out!
The most important tool in make-up is the brush. Even if you are working with a limited budget and do not have a lot of money to spend on cosmetics, you should still invest in a good set of brushes. It is better to use low quality, cost effective make-up with a high quality brush then to waste your money buying expensive cosmetics and applying them with cheap tools. So if the only applicators you have ever used are the little sponge-tip, plastic devices that come free with most drug store brand make-up, then for the love of god, please throw them away and keep reading!!
I know what you are thinking: "Oh come on Squeak, they are free and fit right into my eye shadow container! What harm could they possibly do?" Believe it or not, there are a plethora of reasons why you should not even bother using those little freebie applicators. I know how tempting it is; they have a special compartment in your shadow case, and every time you open it up that little plastic sponge thingie is staring you right in the face. Well, don't give in! It will do you no good.
As far as its use goes, the sponge tipped applicator is really only good for applying shadow directly to the eye. When it comes to shading, contouring, blending, and all those other ultra important shadow techniques, it is just lousy. Can it still be done? Yes. But with quite a bit more difficulty than if you had just used the proper brushes.
The basic problem I have with these little free applicators is their lack of control. On average they are little more then two inches long, causing one to have to pinch them tightly in between the fingers. If you must use them, look for the longer type and clean and store it as you would any other brush.
This reminds me of yet another reason to not use them...lack of cleanliness. Sponge tipped applicators are harder to keep clean than a normal brush and are much more prone to collecting bacteria. They retain moisture better and are typically locked away in a tiny dark compartment with the shadow case. This kind of environment makes bacteria very happy...and we do not want happy bacteria all over our cosmetics and faces. Heck...we don't even want melancholy bacteria around! So do yourself a favor, and just throw the darn things out.
If this is your first time being introduced into the world of make-up brushes prepare to be overwhelmed! There are a variety of different factors to think about when choosing the proper tools for applying cosmetics. Even those of you who are familiar with brushes might be able to learn a thing or two by reading this lesson.
The four most important factors to consider when buying brushes are what materials it is made of, the quality of the construction, texture of the hair, and the shape of the bristles.
Only after considering those factors should one be concerned with overall appearance and price. Unfortunately, the average consumer often chooses products only for looks and price first....placing quality and construction lower on the scale of importance.
in most cases you will want to look for brushes that are made out of real animal hair. Some people have a problem with it but I can assure you, most cosmetic companies do not kill animals or use dead animals to collect brush hair. In many cases, the hair is simply cut or shaved from the animal. If you still don't feel comfortable using a natural bristle, there are some decent quality synthetic brushes on the market. Brushes made from Taklon are probably your best bet. They imitate the two tone fiber effect that real hair provides and are incredibly soft and durable. However, I still don't feel that they can properly replicate the follicle design that nature has perfected. Natural hairs are not solid and smooth. They are actually made of a cylindrical shaft that is covered with tiny holes and scales. These scales and holes trap and hold whatever powders or cosmetics they pick up. When you press the brush against your skin, they release the powder and distribute it onto your skin.
There are times, however, that synthetic bristles are best. For example, when applying liquids or creams, a synthetic bristle tends to be stiffer and provides better control. You can get the best of both worlds with a blended brush (a brush with both natural and synthetic bristles). They offer the control and maximum coverage that synthetic can provide as well as the holding and trapping ability of a natural bristle. I feel that these blended brushes are superior for applying liquids and creams.
So does it matter what type of hair is used? Companies seem to make an awfully big deal about whether the bristles are sable or squirrel or pony or goat...but to the average consumer (like us!), you aren't going to notice a huge difference in your make-up application as long as the brush is made of natural material and is well constructed. It actually matters less what the hair types is and more what cutting it is.
Types of Cutting
Many times, you can look closely at the brush to see whether it is first or second cut. If the hair tapers at the ends or looks really pointy, it is probably first cut. If the hair looks flat at the top or individual bristles look to be the same thickness from base to tip, it is probably a second cut brush. Be sure if you are spending a lot money for your brushes that you are getting the first cut. In some animals, like goat, it matters less what cutting you get because the animals hair is on the blunt side anyway. But in some animals, like sable and squirrel, getting those fine, pointy tips is of the utmost importance!
With that being said, let's get to know our animals a tad bit better...
Types of Hair
To me, the quality of the brush matters even more than the materials it is made from. After all, what's the point of buying an expensive Sable brush if all the hairs start to fall out after a week??
A good quality brush is braided or hand-tied...not glued. The hairs should be placed in the shape of a dome with the longest hairs towards the middle and the shortest hairs around the outside.
The best brushes are hand-made. Brushes that are manufactured in a factory by machines are good for companies but bad for consumers. Companies are able to make a lot of brushes fast, but there is a large margin for error and the materials tend to be cheap and the construction is inconsistent.
Machine brushes just can't complete with the level of detail and quality of a handmade brush. Quality control and frequent inspections ensure that handmade brushes are the best quality possible before they can leave the factory or shop. Each craftsman for instance, needs to measure the length of each brush, count the number of brush windings, check the overall shape of the brush, measure the thickness of the underlying wire, and determine that the brush has enough bristles before it can be sent off to packaging. Machine made brushes come off an assembly line and are only briefly inspected upon completion.
After taking the materials and quality of the brush into account, one should next consider the texture and shape of the brush. Hold the brush in your hand. See if the shape of the handle is comfortable to hold. Make sure you can grip it properly and that it feels "balanced" between your fingers. Make sure the handle is treated with a high gloss lacquer...if you can find triple laquered, go with that! Check and make sure that you like the way the hair feels. If it feels itchy or rough on your skin, look for a softer quality brush.
Only after inspecting the brush for quality, hair type, and shape should one then consider its overall appearance. You may not always get the quality you like in the color you wanted, this is just something you are going to have to accept. Some of the best quality brushes are not much to look at. More often than not, the poor quality brushes come in the prettiest colors only because they want people to buy them. If you get some choice with the color, great. If not, don't pass up a great quality brush just because it doesn't come in the color you wanted!
By now you may be wondering how much money you are going to have to put aside to get a decent set of brushes. Sable hair, first cuttings, hand tied, triple lacquered handles...all this info is probably making your wallet just a tad nervous.
But fear not! There are some tricks to getting a good set of brushes without spending hundreds of dollars. You can buy art store brushes. They look the same, feel the same, and most of them are even shaped the same...but are they the same??
The answer is...yes!
Most art store brushes are made from the same animal hair, hand-tied in the same fashion, and finished off with the same lacquer. But the best part is...most of them are half the price of cosmetic brushes! Look at the picture below, the top brush is a brush that I bought from a local art store and the bottom one is a MAC brush. The two are practically identical.
There are some small differences of course. The first is that many times paint brushes have longer and thicker handles than cosmetic brushes. It has to do with balance. Long handled brushes are lovely for easel work, while short brushes are meant to be held closer to the tip for control. You may find it cumbersome to try to do make-up with a long handled paint brush. But if you look around, you should be able to find art brushes that are short and resemble the size of a cosmetic brush.
Another difference is the brush shape and how the bristles are organized. Cosmetic brushes are cut and organized in a very specific shape to achieve different application and blending effects. Paint brushes are shaped to achieve different painting effects. A face and a canvas are two very different things...as are the mediums we use on each. Inspect art brushes closely before buying them as cosmetic brushes. Learn what shapes and textures are used in application and blending of cosmetics. Once you have a good idea of how a cosmetic brush looks and feels, it should be easy to find its art brush counterpart.
Another way to save some money is to limit your self to a few basic brushes. You don't need that twelve piece set to do great make-up. Figure out what you wear on a day to day basis and what brushes you'll need to accomplish that look.
Do your homework. Don't just settle for the first set of brushes you see...or assume that expensive equals high quality. There are plenty of inexpensive, good quality brushes out there...you just have to do a bit of searching to find them. Check out message boards, join a few beauty forums, or talk to a make-up artist. Find out what people have tried and liked.
Taking your brushes out with you can be a problem sometimes. I will never understand why it is so hard for make-up companies to make a case to store brushes in that actually fits inside a purse! Most brush rolls and containers are for make-up artists and are rather large. When you only want to take a few brushes with you for the day, it seems pointless to carry such a large case. I struggled with this for awhile until I made a discovery:
The common toothbrush holder.
It is small, it is easy to open, and it will hold 5-7 small brushes. The best part is, they are dirt cheap and come in a ton of colors and styles!
If you take care of your brushes, and clean them regularly, they can last you a lifetime. Be sure to wash your brushes often and also the containers you store them in. Check out the Washing Cosmetic Brushes Tutorial to learn how to clean them properly!
Here are some face mask recipes that you can make at home. These were taken from various magazines and beauty sites. Tried and true.